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YABF (yet another brisket failure)

softmeat

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Hi all. Been a member here for quite some time, and have done a lot of reading here and other places. So believe me, asking this isnt on a whim its after a lot of reading and trial/error.
In a nutshell, my briskets are coming out amazingly flavorful but amazingly dry and I cant seem to fix that. Heres my process:

I have an electric smoker (looks like a small fridge). My last brisket was about 9 pounds trimmed up. I trimmed it well on the bottom and kept the fat cap to about 1/4", rubbed it in olive oil then a liberal coating of course black pepper, salt and garlic powder. Sometimes a little cayenne for heat but not this time.

I preheat the smoker to 250F, and toss in the brisket, fat cap up. In goes my wireless thermometer into the middle. Not the thickest part, not the thinnest part, but somewhat of an average. I have calibrated the thermometer previously so its accurate.

Heat it to the stall temp about 165, take it out, wrap it in butchers paper and put it back in, fat cap up. I then let it go to about 205 internal temp. I then keep it wrapped in the BP and put it in a cooler for anywhere between 30-60 minutes, while Im making the rest of the meal. When I take it out, its some of the best tasting jerky ever. hahaha. OK not quite that dry but damn close it seems. Its literally hard to even swallow its so dry.

What Ive tried to fix this:
Injecting it
Lower temp, longer cook
higher temp, shorter cook
Lower internal temp before taking it out.

I generally dont spray it (I have found it negatively affects the bark), and I do have a dish of water in there the whole time. Sometimes I use beef broth.

My cooks have been anywhere from 7-13 hours for similar sized briskets with all the variations Ive tried yet all of them seem dry. I have read (here in fact!) that dry means it hasnt been cooked long enough but for some reason that is counter to my brains thinking.

Flavor is a 10, smoke ring is a 10, Bark is a 9-10 every time. Its just too damn dry. ANY tips most appreciated!!
 

SecondHandSmoker

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A couple of questions.
Are you sure your probes are accurate?
What is the actual temp inside the smoker at grate level?
What is the grade of the briskets you've been smoking?
Are you probing for tenderness in several places before pulling off the smoker?
How are you achieving a smoke ring in an electric smoker?
 

softmeat

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Joined Nov 15, 2012
A couple of questions.
Are you sure your probes are accurate?
Yes definitely! Thats the fist thing I did!

What is the actual temp inside the smoker at grate level?
I have not measured it at grate level. I just set the smoker to a certain temp. Its a fairly small enclosure however.

What is the grade of the briskets you've been smoking?
Im honestly not sure. The package doesnt seem to indicate that.

Are you probing for tenderness in several places before pulling off the smoker?
Yes, tenderness is fantastic, it is not tough at all anywhere.

How are you achieving a smoke ring in an electric smoker?
with continuously feeding it wood in the chip tray.
 

SecondHandSmoker

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Souds like you have the bases covered except on the grade of brisket. If the briskets are "select" grade, they may not have enough fat marbling.

What is the highest temp setting you've tried smoking at?

Edit: You could also try foil and some beef stock instead of BP when crutching the stall. But doing so will create a softer bark.
 
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softmeat

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Souds like you have the bases covered except on the grade of brisket. If the briskets are "select" grade, they may not have enough fat marbling.

What is the highest temp setting you've tried smoking at?

Edit: You could also try foil and some beef stock instead of BP when crutching the stall. But doing so will create a softer bark.
I can live with a softer bark if it meant I had moister meat, thats a good idea, I will try that thank you. I have tried smoking at 175, but it cooks too fast and is too tough in the end. I can also try for a more marbled cut. Ill go back to the butcher and ask. Am I right thinking that if its too dry then its overcooked? Should I take it out sooner at a lower IT?

one thing I havent really tried is changing my temp mid smoke. I have thought of going 230 for the fist x hours until the stall, wrap it then bump it to 260-270. It would cook it quicker but not as long.
 

SecondHandSmoker

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I can live with a softer bark if it meant I had moister meat, thats a good idea, I will try that thank you. I have tried smoking at 175, but it cooks too fast and is too tough in the end. I can also try for a more marbled cut. Ill go back to the butcher and ask. Am I right thinking that if its too dry then its overcooked? Should I take it out sooner at a lower IT?

one thing I havent really tried is changing my temp mid smoke. I have thought of going 230 for the fist x hours until the stall, wrap it then bump it to 260-270. It would cook it quicker but not as long.
Prime is the best grade, choice grade would be next in line. Avoid select grade.
Dry brisket is actually undercooked brisket as the collagen hasn't had a chance to hit saturation point to melt.

Edit: Keep your chamber temp constant for now to eliminate variables.
250 is a good temp. When you start going toward the temp low end, that only increases the cook time along with the chances of acually causing the meat to dry out.
 
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softmeat

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Prime is the best grade, choice grade would be next in line. Avoid select grade.
Dry brisket is actually undercooked brisket as the collagen hasn't had a chance to hit saturation point to melt.
That may be my problem then, just not leaving it in there long enough. Is 200 IT too early?
I can test this easily, I froze half the last brisket, I can reheat it to a higher temp and see if it is moister.
 

SecondHandSmoker

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That may be my problem then, just not leaving it in there long enough. Is 200 IT too early?
I can test this easily, I froze half the last brisket, I can reheat it to a higher temp and see if it is moister.
IT is just a guideline. I've had briskets go to 212 before they probe tender.

You could try reheating at a higher temp as a test. But if the meat has lost moisture to begin with, then reheating at a higher temp won't add moisture back unless you add some additional liquid like beef stock etc.
 

softmeat

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Double check the thermometer you have. It really sounds like you are over cooking the meat. If you have cooked all these briskets with same results and same thermometer, test the thermometer.
I started with the built in thermometer in the cooker and figured that was exactly the issue, so I bought a new wireless one and have the same results.
 

smokeymose

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Ok, this is a mystery. You've tried everything right. Brisket is actually pretty forgiving. You can cook it anywhere from 240 to 300 (my offset stick burner likes 260 to 280). I'm not familiar with electric smokers, but you seem to be doing the right things. I cook them fat side up (like you) and though I get it through the stall before wrapping I leave it wrapped until done (like you). My probe goes in the thickest part which is at the hottest end of the chamber. I take it to around 203 IT and probe or give it a little shake to see if it feels like jello. If it's done I just let it rest on the counter until it's cool enough to slice. I've been using "choice" from Gordon Food Service and no problems other than having to trim a bit more fat.
Here's an off the wall idea. Maybe try cooking it in a foil pan? You may not get as much smoke all over, but a lot of folks do their pork butts like that.
Also, not to insult you, but are you slicing across the grain?
 

softmeat

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Ok, this is a mystery. You've tried everything right. Brisket is actually pretty forgiving. You can cook it anywhere from 240 to 300 (my offset stick burner likes 260 to 280). I'm not familiar with electric smokers, but you seem to be doing the right things. I cook them fat side up (like you) and though I get it through the stall before wrapping I leave it wrapped until done (like you). My probe goes in the thickest part which is at the hottest end of the chamber. I take it to around 203 IT and probe or give it a little shake to see if it feels like jello. If it's done I just let it rest on the counter until it's cool enough to slice. I've been using "choice" from Gordon Food Service and no problems other than having to trim a bit more fat.
Here's an off the wall idea. Maybe try cooking it in a foil pan? You may not get as much smoke all over, but a lot of folks do their pork butts like that.
Also, not to insult you, but are you slicing across the grain?
Absolutely no insult taken, and yes definitely cutting cross the grain. I usually cut a corner of the brisket before putting it in the smoker against the grain so I can continue that line after its done. Sometimes when you take it out its tough to know exactly the grain direction so I cut the corners beforehand. I can try the pan idea, and I can try a touch longer in the smoker too for a slightly higher IT. Although theres no real harm in testing it earlier I suppose either. I think you guys may have hit on it, I may be getting the wrong cut. Ill grab "choice" next time, I bet that will help. Ill report back here after my next smoke! PS, glad to hear Im doing it right!
 

noboundaries

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A dry packer brisket is an undercooked brisket still packed with tough, unmelted collagen.

Discard all your temp probes on your next one. Technology won't tell you when the brisket is tender and juicy, but the brisket will. Learn to speak brisket. The same issue exists with the clock. Temp and time are guides, not rules or destinations.

Set your smoker at 250F, load the brisket, and walk away for 10 hours.

After 10 hours, probe the flat, not the point, with a dual pronged fork or a temp probe. If you feel resistance, the brisket just said, "Hey, I ain't done!"

Forget bark at this point. Your target is a tender juicy brisket. Double wrap it in HD foil with a cup of beef broth. Seal tightly and stick it back in your 250F smoker.

Walk away for an hour then probe the flat through the foil. Resistance? The brisket just said, "Leave me alone for another hour."

Continue to do so until the probe slides easily into the flat, or with minimal resistance. That's the brisket saying, "Enough high heat. I need to rest."

Take it out of the smoker and let it rest still wrapped in a warm place for 3-5 hours. Personally, I used to use a cooler. Now I use a 170F oven after researching what professional chefs are doing. First time I did it I expected an overcooked, crumbly hunk of meat. Got pure tender, melt-in-my-mouth brisket that slices beautifully.

Stop speaking techie and start speaking briskie. You'll get what you want.
 

SmokinEdge

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Ok, this is a mystery. You've tried everything right. Brisket is actually pretty forgiving. You can cook it anywhere from 240 to 300 (my offset stick burner likes 260 to 280). I'm not familiar with electric smokers, but you seem to be doing the right things. I cook them fat side up (like you) and though I get it through the stall before wrapping I leave it wrapped until done (like you). My probe goes in the thickest part which is at the hottest end of the chamber. I take it to around 203 IT and probe or give it a little shake to see if it feels like jello. If it's done I just let it rest on the counter until it's cool enough to slice. I've been using "choice" from Gordon Food Service and no problems other than having to trim a bit more fat.
Here's an off the wall idea. Maybe try cooking it in a foil pan? You may not get as much smoke all over, but a lot of folks do their pork butts like that.
Also, not to insult you, but are you slicing across the grain?
Good point on the foil pan.
Although it shouldn’t be needed to produce a fine brisket, the pan works very well.
I have cooked brisket for years many different ways with good results but my current method is whole packer briskets from Sams or Wally World cuz they are about the only full packer I can source locally in this one horse town. I trim, season and smoke for about 5hrs then remove to a aluminum pan cover with foil and either finish in the oven or back on the Yoder 640. They finish fast this way to IT 200-205ish and will be juicy pull meat if I’m not careful. This method works well.
 

Simple man

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Been there. What has worked for me is I don't trim any fat. I cook with the fat cap up at 250 for 8 to 9 hrs then take the fat cap off and place on a rack above the brisket at 275 for another 2 to 3 hours. Once the fat cap is nice and burnt I remove brisket and let it rest in foil for an hour. Most of the briskets I now smoke are between 12 and 15 lbs.
 

Hijack73

Fire Starter
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Joined Aug 9, 2020
A select brisket can be made good, but the window for it being right in very very small. With a choice or better you have more forgiveness on the high side. Any brisket not quite cooked enough will be dry. Any brisket cooked too long will be dry.

You get a couple of degrees to play with on choice, probably as many as 4-6. Selects you gotta have a miracle thumb to grow. I can - or I could when I used to smoke 3-10 per month years ago. Now I avoid select unless its for grind or for corned beef. The window in a select is probably no more than 2 degrees, and are a misery to hold very long. I used to do them for church meals and I served an awful lot of pulled/chopped brisket because you can chop/pull the point and use it to lube the dryer flat.

Bad news is that temp doesn't mean squat, it's just a guide that tells you when to start poking it. Every one is different. I mostly use my probes to let me know when the hunk o beef is at 193-194 because some get done at 196 and some get done at 203, and a few as high as 205 or better. Some swear by the low 200's, I do not. Most of mine come off at probably 198-200. I use a metal chopstick to probe mine now, or my instant read. Starting at 194 I probe every 30 minutes. And I ignore the temp probes during that process. Getting hung up on temperature is a huge mistake. The very second it probes tender the cooking by heat process needs to stop. Going any longer means you are in that window and heading BACK towards dry brisket.

user noboundaries noboundaries hit it on the head. Only thing I do different than him is I put mine in a pan with no juice and cover the pan if I want to 'wrap'. I end up with some banging jus this way and jus is precious. I even rest in the oven. The oven is preheated (170) but when the meat goes in the oven gets turned off. It stays hot for several hours. If I want to eat it sooner it goes on the counter. It's going to be hot for an hour and a half just hanging out covered on a counter.
 

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